Oh growers, how you torment me. Just when I’m all set to stamp a disappointing 4/10 on an album, here you come like a creeping tide to catch me unawares, and leaving my verdict all but stranded. After Arcade Fire played a similarly cruel trick on me last year I made sure to guard vigilantly against such snap judgements, but lo and behold, here I am again.
Back in 2008 Devon-based group Metronomy set my pulse racing by releasing Nights Out, an album chocker-block with electro-pop eccentricity. Fidgety with creativity, and unpredictable to the last, it was certainly not to be everyone’s cup of tea, but I was sold on its oddball charms and cannily slipshod production from the word go.
So when I heard Metronomy had “matured” for their 3rd album The English Riviera, alarm bells started ringing immediately. Matured? What, you mean less fun? And true enough, on first listen, with a heavy heart no longer beating so rapid, I found myself gloomily coming down from my Metronomy high.
HOWEVER. Thank god for repeat listens. Thank god for clean and breezy song-writing. And, above all, thank god for The English Riviera. After all, who cares if Metronomy maestro Joseph Mount has shorn himself of his beloved beats, by effectively burying his snare drum and bass guitar six feet under the sand, when he is capable of welcoming us into an album as luxuriantly as he does here.
Awash with synths – a Metronomy staple Mount thankfully kept faith with – We Broke Free swoops in to the sound of squawking seagulls and gently mounting strums of guitar. It’s the first of three simply gorgeous pop songs, flowing effortlessly from one into the other. Pick of the trio for me is Everything Goes My Way, with the intimate tete-a-tete between new drummer Anna Prior and Mount, set to sumptuously harmonised vocal coo-coos that keep the track ticking over adorably. Listening again to this song I realised Mount’s imagination is as abundant as ever, there to be dug out by any listener keen to be rewarded by its curious shifts. Then come the carnival keyboards of lead single The Look, an endlessly catchy number, primed to hog much of the radio airwaves this summer.
Unfortunately, I’ve begun skipping past the rather too plodding She Wants and the long-winded Trouble, but that’s mainly because I know I’ll arrive at the glorious The Bay once they’re over. It’s the start of a lively three in a row, along with Loving Arm and Corinne, which prove Metronomy haven’t completely disregarded their dance root instincts. The beats are strong in The Bay, with synths swelling like surf all around them, and thereby convincing me that Metronomy are more than capable of transferring their Nights Out parties to this year’s sun-baked beach stereos.
Ultimately, my preference is still with Nights Out. But Metronomy have displayed enough tact and ingenuity in liberating themselves from the sweatfests of nightclub dancefloors, by emerging blinking but invigorated into the sunlight of The English Riviera, that they must now have their hearts set on conquering even broader horizons.
Ch-Check It Out If You’re Partial To – Lots and lots and lots of synths; indie-pop; coming down from a night out on a lovely sunny day; the English seaside; albums that take time to grow; simple but effective songwriting; your heart beating less rapid
Fantastic Track – The Bay